This is a great first issue. As I’ve said before, I’m very enthusiastic for the idea of Dick as Batman with Damian as Robin, and this issue bares it out. Its fast paced and funny, while simultaneously introducing a new villain who seems suitably freaky and twisted.
The wildness of the opening chase and the new flying Batmobile is not something that would’ve really worked with Bruce still in the cowl I suspect, and it plays nicely with the lighter feel Dick brings to Batman. We then move on to see Dick and Alfred shutting down the Batcave, as they move to their new base at Wayne Tower (presumably the same one Bruce used during the 70s?). I quite like the idea that they’re going to be based out of an alternative cave, as Dick already mentions that while he’s okay with being the new Batman, he still feels like he’s wearing a shroud to an extent, and from that perspective it makes sense that he’d feel more comfortably operating out of a new base of operations.
We see some nice scenes between Dick, Alfred and Damian which nicely sets up the way these characters play off of each other, and I’m looking forward to seeing them expand these relationships. Damian still comes across as quite grudging towards the Bat-family, seeing himself as Bruce’s true heir, however you do get the feeling that its a front. And certainly Dick and Alfred are shown offering olive branches to Damian, be it Dick taking him under his wing as Robin, or something simple like Alfred complimenting Damian’s work on the new Batmobile. I look forward to seeing Damian mature over the next 12 months under their guidance.
And this is something I’ll be interested to see once Bruce comes back. Will Damian remain as Robin to his Batman? Seeing them interact in this way would certainly be interesting, especially as by then Damian will be more used to how Dick does things.
I guess the only complaint I could make is one that I basically levelled at Battle for the Cowl the other week, in that while Damian is the new Robin, and here Dick makes mention of offering Tim his old job back, we’ve still not actually seen what prompted Tim to hand the identity over to Damian. I’m really hoping we get a scene addressing this in the upcoming Red Robin series as its currently a bit of an oversight. I’m not really levelling this at Batman and Robin though, since in fairness this series is aiming to be accessible and so obviously doesn’t want to get weighed down with such things. Its just an ongoing niggle with me.
Aside from this, while introducing our heroes’ new status quo, Morrison also starts to introduce a new set of villains, clearly with circus connections (playing to the obvious history of Dick as a character – its odd how many evil circus people he encounters compared to everyone else 😉 ). Their leader is Pyg, and his introduction is nicely contrasted with the big, bold scenes of Batman and Robin, wherein we see him catch up to someone trying to run out on him. Pyg certainly comes across as twisted and sadistic enough to be an interesting addition to the new Batman’s rogue’s gallery. Whereas the intro scenes of Batman and Robin are huge fun, Pyg is instantly portrayed as brutal, torturing his captive with the promise of doing the same to his daughter and I found this contrast quite effective.
This is a great first issue. Very different in tone from what we had with Bruce as Batman, and in that regard I think this will hopefully be a shot in the arm for the franchise, which at times got dragged down by writers making Bruce overly grim. How the other writers approach Dick’s Batman should be interesting and I hope they manage to capture his voice well, and we don’t end up with the problems the Nightwing title had after Chuck Dixon left. DC’s been upfront about the fact Bruce will be back in 12 months, so in the meantime I hope all the writers capitalise on the chance to do something different with Batman, rather than try and turn Dick into Bruce-lite.